Ah, if only Dorothy could return to the moment when she had caught Coleridge greedily eyeing that eel. The ensuing months had proved catastrophic. Only now was it possible for her to recollect the ensuing emotions in tranquility. She had remarked as much to William as he lay in his darkened room. On hearing her voice he had lifted the many layers of damp muslin that she had laid across his brow in an effort to assuage his virulent fever.
‘What was that Dot?’
‘Oh William it’s so wonderful to hear your dear voice again!’
‘You said something about recollecting emotion in…’
‘That’s good. I like that. Pass me my notebook,’ William commanded in a surprisingly strong voice that belied his pathetic condition.
Needless to say Dorothy had handed him the notebook, a little grudgingly, and watched him write down her phrase. She must forgive him, she thought, he had been terribly ill. Their homely local sawbones Dr Blundercase being stumped by William’s condition had pleaded by letter for a medical opinion from the renowned Viennese physician Dr Werner von Passingfad, who had declared William a victim of an entirely new disease which he had identified as ‘Amazonian Algorithmic Obsession’.
The madness had all begun with William axeing her arbour in order to ‘build a marketing platform’. She had hoped that Coleridge might have brought some sense and proportion to bear upon her brother, but who would have believed it? The whole thing had been Coleridge’s idea in the first place! It had apparently come to him in some sort of dream. Admittedly William had been introduced to Ms Snocking, the self-publishing sensation, at a London book launch, some weeks before. He had revealed the publishing stats of ‘Lyrical Ballads’ and she had laughed so immoderately as to spill the strange concoction that she was imbibing, (known as a cocktail) right down William’s embonpoint. William couldn’t help resenting the fact that Coleridge had so obviously exploited his little confusion concerning the word ‘launch’ to suggest that if it were a naval occasion, he might dress as Lady Hamilton, (the infamous paramour of Lord Nelson).
‘Damn, damn Coleridge to hell!’
‘What was that?’ Ms Snocking asked.
‘Nothing’ William replied.
‘Don’t apologise William, network!’,
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Dressed like that, Mr Wordsworth, you have definitely caught the attention of the Big Six publishers, was that your publicist’s idea?’
‘No, I assure you, just a little practical joke on behalf of a friend.’
‘Whatever. Just get yourself around the room and milk it!’
‘Meanwhile I shall send you my pamphlet on ‘The Key Secrets to Going Viral.’
‘I don’t know what to say.’
‘Save it honey’, said Ms Snocking, ‘isn’t that Lord Byron giving you the booty call?’
With that Ms Snocking had apparently abandoned William to the depredations of London literary society and left.
He appeared back in Grasmere a few weeks later dressed in the tatters of a silk gown and gibbering like a Cockermouth cockatoo, ‘I must trigger the Amazon’s algorithms, I must trigger the Amazon’s algorithms’, until he passed out on his once-nurtured pea patch. Shortly after, Coleridge turned up and together he and Dorothy tried to raise the wild-eyed poet from the ground whereupon he screeched and cried out.
‘No Byron, not again, please unhand me, for the love of God, if you kiss me once more, I shall…’
Here, once again, he fainted clean away and was carried into the house by Coleridge. It must have been a few days later that William explained to a disappointed Coleridge that ‘The Amazon’ was not a six foot bare-breasted woman of alarming beauty, who had pursued him day and night in order to tear him limb from limb, but merely a bookseller, who had a list and that if enough people bought the new edition of Lyrical Ballads, the bookseller would put the book on his ‘recommendations’ list. After Coleridge got over his disappointment, he took a bottle of Aquafortis from his jacket and took a swig.
‘Lyrical Ballads is going to start flying off the shelves like Molly’s hot-buttered jam-topped griddle cakes and I am going to show you how,’ said Coleridge as he began outlining to William his ‘marketing dream’ for the new edition.